Agencies seek volunteers to aid in homeless count
January 17, 2013
Agencies that service Nevada County's homeless population are preparing to tackle the task of tallying that demographic, but they need help.
Volunteers are sought to help conduct a "point-in-time" survey, count and service area homeless individuals residing in Nevada County Jan. 24, said Cindy Maple, executive director of Hospitality House, the county's largest homeless service organization and shelter.
Hospitality House, in partnership with the county's Continuum of Care Collaborative, is organizing the count, Maple said.
While Maple said that part of the impetus of the count is a Department of Housing and Urban Development mandate that all Homeless Continuum of Care Collaborative Councils conduct a bi-annual count of sheltered and unsheltered homeless populations during one 24-hour period during the last 10 days in January, the benefit extends beyond fulfilling a federal funding requirement.
The survey helps Hospitality House and the other groups collect demographic information and determine the needs of homeless individuals living in Nevada County, Maple said.
"It's important for us to understand the magnitude of the number of people homeless in our community to better service them," said Jeff Brown, director of the county's Health and Human Services Agency and also a member of the Continuum of Care.
This year's homeless count will be Hospitality House's third official count and fourth overall. Since June 2005, the nonprofit organization has coordinated counts.
Based on those counts, Maple estimated that Nevada County continues have around 500 homeless individuals.
The day of outreach is two-fold, Maple said. In addition to organized canvassing of city streets and known homeless camps, Hospitality House also hosts a homeless connect event, where food, music, gift cards, cold-weather gear, haircuts, health evaluations and other services are provided for homeless people to entice them to complete a survey.
"It's become very popular because we offer a lot of services," Maple said. "It's almost like a mini resource fair. But the goal is to get people into the event to be surveyed."
Surveys are completely confidential, Maple said.
One popular aspect of the event is the Nevada County Superior Court's "Homeless Court" for homeless individuals wanting to address minor warrants and tickets, Maple said.
"We see this as an opportunity to clear the barriers to getting these people services," Maple said. "The court is a huge part of the connect event."
The connect event takes place between noon and 5 p.m. Jan. 24 at the Grass Valley United Methodist Church, located at 236 S. Church St. in Grass Valley.
A shuttle will run between Grass Valley and Nevada City between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. to bring homeless to and from the event.
Volunteers are needed at the event to serve food, oversee donations and conduct surveys, among a multitude of others needs, Maple said.
"It's good for the community to experience this," Maple said. "Anytime we can engage our community with our homeless community members is a good thing."
In addition to the connect event, teams of trained volunteers will spread out to areas where homeless people are known to gather and camp and distribute the survey.
With around 20 volunteers already committed, Maple estimated at least double that, if not more, will be needed to successfully pull of the day.
"It's an opportunity for the community to come together around a community issue and deal with it in a way that is really positive," Brown said.
For anyone interested in participating in this countywide effort, a volunteer registration form can be obtained by emailing email@example.com. You can also drop by Hospitality House's Welcome Center, located at 230 S. Church St. in Grass Valley.
"This event attracts people who are feeling especially alienated to come in," said Joanna Robinson, a Hospitality House founder. "In doing so, they get a vision of Hospitality House and the vast community of people who only want to help them."
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4236.